Sun | Mar 29, 2020

Many professionals not prepared for life after work, says retirement expert

Published:Monday | April 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Sharon Smith, senior manager with responsibility for the JN Individual Retirement Scheme at JN Bank.

Professionals such as medical doctors and lawyers are often considered among the top tier on the career pyramid, usually earning considerably more than the average worker.

Given their earning power and high level of education, many persons also perceive that as professionals, they invest wisely and are better prepared for life incidents such as retirement.

However, Sharon Smith, senior manager with responsibility for the JN Individual Retirement Scheme (JNRS) at JN Bank, says that in many instances, this is not the case.

Smith noted that many high-income professionals, including some doctors and lawyers, are regularly some of the least prepared for retirement.

"What we have seen over the years is that many professionals, including your typical doctor or lawyer, are focused on their specific area of competence; however, when it comes to finance and financial management, they are not literate at all. Therefore, they make decisions that are not in their best interest," Smith said.

She pointed out that some doctors have developed the reputation of being spendthrifts.

"They earn large sums of money and figure that they will be able to work for a long time. However, professionals who engage in this type of spending don't consider how hard it will be to maintain their lifestyle in retirement without saving," she said.

Smith pointed out that one of the reasons some doctors are forced to work until death is because they are accustomed to making a certain amount of money, but they make no preparation for the day they will stop working.

She advised that this type of attitude towards finance and investment can create economic challenges later in life.

"Some don't know about pension plans and many don't set up one. And, generally, their lifestyle encourages consumption rather than investment. There are many cases of professionals who make substantial salaries but who do not put enough aside during the heyday of their career, and, therefore, encounter serious financial problems when they can no longer work," she stated.

"If they stop working, they can't pay their bills because many have nothing saved."

... Doctors, lawyers failing to take advantage of retirement plans

A March 2018 survey conducted by the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) among its members found that a large number of doctors did not believe that they were prepared for retirement, while the majority confirmed that they were only somewhat prepared.

Of a total of 318 medical doctors who responded, 164, or 51.6 per cent, said that they were only somewhat prepared for retirement, while 133, or 41.8 per cent, said that they were not prepared. Only 21, or 6.6 per cent, of the respondents believed that they were prepared for retirement.

Additionally, the survey revealed that the majority of the respondents were not participants in any formal retirement plan.

Of the respondents, 120, or 37.7 per cent, were without a pension plan. Forty-nine, or 15.4 per cent, of the respondents had a government pension, while 115, or 36.2 per cent, of respondents had a private pension or retirement plan.

Sharon Smith, senior manager with responsibility for the JN Individual Retirement Scheme (JNRS) at JN Bank, said that many lawyers are similarly unprepared for retirement.

"The good thing is that many successful lawyers, in the context of their business, acquire property. Unfortunately, that is all many have; therefore, even if they have property, their cash flow is still a challenge," she said.

Smith noted that similar to doctors, many lawyers don't have pension plans.

"Many also ignore matters such as tax benefits because if they're not in an approved pension scheme, they're not saving on taxes, and their income is being taxed at the maximum," she posited.


Jacqueline Cummings Gordon, president of the Jamaican Bar Association, has acknowledged that some members of the legal profession neglect to plan effectively for retirement.

"This is something you will see among members of the older generation because before, persons who are in their 60s and 70s now could not just go out and buy a retirement plan. [It's] only in these times that such a thing exists. Otherwise, you would have to be working with a company and become a part of their employee scheme in order to have any real, secure retirement plan," she said.

Cummings Gordon noted that real estate was often considered the "retirement plan" for many older lawyers. She noted that the income earned from the property is what many use to finance their needs in retirement.

Cummings Gordon pointed out that, unfortunately, many attorneys continue to make the mistake of not establishing bona fide retirement plans.

"I think it's just a matter of willpower because most people don't buy insurance, so unless an agent comes knocking at their door and explains to them the benefits of insurance and convinces them to invest in it, it's not something that most think about. It's the same thing with pension plans, especially when you're young," she reasoned.

Cummings Gordon said that one of her objectives as president of the Bar association is to establish a medical insurance and retirement scheme for members of the profession, "especially those who work for themselves".

The Bar association president noted that the idea came about after "seeing what happened to some practitioners after they fell ill and no provision was put in place and what this does to the families and even clients".